Label Focus - 17 Seconds Records
By: Rob Gannon
Aside from being The Cure’s second studio album, 17 Seconds is a Scottish boutique label run by friends Laurent Gauffre and Ed Jupp. Spearheaded by the signing of local indie/chamber-pop legends Aberfeldy, the label continues to blossom. I took the time to speak to Laurent recently, Ed concurring with his thoughts at a later date.
Rob: First, a little background to you and the label please. Why did you start 17 Seconds, and who’s on the roster?
Laurent : In truth, we started the label because we both (Laurent and Ed – [sic]) became sick and tired of waiting around for someone else to release the next Aberfeldy single. Ed was friends with Ken McIntosh from the band, having met whilst working together in the glamorous setting of one of Edinburgh’s call centres and Ed suggested that I go with him to catch one of their live shows around Christmas 2007. After that show I fell in love with the band but it wasn’t until the following August, whilst ranting at each other over coffee in Edinburgh about what a travesty it was that there was so much good music that wasn’t being heard, that we perhaps naively but nonetheless enthusiastically decided to take the plunge. Since then, we went on to sign 4 other fabulous and musically diverse acts: X Lion Tamer, Escape Act, The Dirty Cuts and most recently, Chris Bradley as a solo artist.
Rob’s quick verdict:
Aberfeldy: – perennial penners of enviable indie/chamber pop with a Coca Cola advert under their collective belt no less.
X Lion Tamer: – bedroom electro-popper, see recent [sic] review:
Escape Act:- mildly manic, Doves-like indie pop-rock charmers
The Dirty Cuts:- impeccable new-wave post-punk in tight trousers
Chris Bradley: – Neil Young/Beach Boys indebted singer-songwriter
Rob: How does your label differ from others? Are there any distinguishing characteristics that give your label its own identity?
Laurent : Aside from the obvious financial differences between us and the major labels, when we say that we are an ‘Indie label’ we mean it in the true sense of the word and not in the bastardised sense in which it has been commonly used by those in the music industry over recent years, meaning bland and instantly disposable radio fodder. We run the label under the basic premise that as far as musical genres are concerned, there exists only two – those being, good and bad. The point of us starting the label was so that we could uncompromisingly release music that we liked in the belief that if we considered something to be good then surely there would be others out there who would agree.
Rob: How difficult was it to get your label established and what does it take to survive and prosper? Is there any money to be made in running a small label?
Laurent : It’s definitely much more difficult than it may seem! As far as what it takes is concerned, then I would say that it takes three things – love, luck and patience. It would be silly to suggest that we’re not interested in making money as the company needs to make money in order to survive but running the label is really, first and foremost a labor of love. We are certainly not in this to make a fast buck or to exploit any of our artists. We do this out of our sheer love of music in the hope that the company makes enough money to sustain itself over a long period of time. For us, this was not a short term investment. We have been fairly lucky in that we have met some very kind and likeminded people who have helped us immeasurably both in terms of advice they have offered and helping to keep our costs down and I think that for us, having people like Bruce Findlay (iconic former record store owner, Zoom Records boss, promoter, BBC Radio Scotland broadcaster and current Aberfeldy manager) around has been essential to the survival of the label. So to answer your question, we would do anything at this point to ensure that our label continues to grow and prosper. There isn’t a lot of money to be made at this point but if we manage to strike it rich over the next few years thanks to our tireless endeavor then so be it.
Rob: When signing new acts, are there any particular attributes or factors that you look for?
Laurent : The first question that we ask ourselves is “would I like to own this record”?
Rob: If money was no object, which artist or band would you most like to work for and why?
Laurent : That is a really difficult question as there are lots of great bands out there but I’d have to say that the coolest thing about running 17 Seconds Records is that most of my favorite bands at the minute are already on our label. There’s no real point in talking about the really big acts as I think that Susan Boyle would turn us down anyway.
Rob: With so many formats now available, 17 Seconds has embraced download-only releases, do you think physical media is dead?
Laurent : No not really I still believe that there’s a time and a place for both. The music industry has certainly evolved over the past few years but despite the practicality of the digital download I still much prefer the physical product. There’s still nothing quite like coming home with a stack of vinyl, sitting back with your headphones on whilst you read the sleeve notes. Geek or what?
Rob: What advice would you give to wannabe label owners?
Laurent : Do it because it’s something that you believe in and that you’re passionate about. Try to get advice from people who have been or already are in the business and GET LUCKY.
Rob: What do you consider to be your label’s proudest achievement and why?
Laurent : Simply keeping the label going has been an achievement in itself. We are both immensely proud of everything that we have achieved as a label and both still get excited whenever we read about one of our artists in an article or hear them on the radio. The enthusiasm and love of what we do has never really diminished.
Rob: What’ll be your next release and when?
Laurent : We will hopefully have our first single with The Dirty Cuts out before the end of the year with albums from both Chris Bradley and Aberfeldy to follow early on in the New Year.
Rob: Are there any plans to release material from your very own indie-rock blues band, The Cow Dens?
Laurent : Ha ha ha! Now that would be something! Unfortunately for the music buying public, The Cow Dens was a bit of a solo project for me that never really got off the ground partly because I could never seem to recruit the right musicians and partly because I simply didn’t have the balls to quit my day job and invest myself fully into the project. I did get some nice feedback however, so maybe one day…..
Rob: [sic] is always on the lookout for a decent recommendation, who’s on the tip of your tongue at the moment?
Laurent : Apart from our own bands I personally like Dundee’s “Wildhouse”, Edinburgh’s “The Gothenburg Address”, Glasgow’s “Punch and the Apostles” and Fife’s very own “The Gillyflowers”. From across the pond I much appreciated a recent tip off regarding Japandroids.
Rob’s quick verdict:
Wildhouse: – ear-attracting Sonic Youth and The Smiths middle-grounders
The Gothenburg Address: -worthy, instrumental shoegaze cum post-rock
Punch and the Apostles: – Hot Hot Heat, Gogol Bordello and Tom Waits mash-up
The Gillyflowers: -Heiress to the Neko Case throne
Rob: Finally, in five years time, where do you see your label?
Laurent : Barbados!
Unabashed optimism seems to abound at the credit-crunch defying 17 Seconds HQ, and such dedicated labels seem to ensure the future of the music industry is bright. In fact, they’re making it a certainty.